The Minnesota Timberwolves entered the 2020 NBA Draft armed with an arsenal of picks and a whole slew of different possibilities.
For weeks (maybe even months!) we had all heard the rumors about the possibility of trading the pick — maybe to Charlotte, maybe to Chicago, or maybe even to Oklahoma City — but in the end, the Wolves cashed in their 2020 NBA Lottery ticket by simply staying put and taking the best player on their board: Anthony Edwards.
While it was Edwards and not LaMelo Ball who had his name called first overall, the letdown from not being able to make a deal was definitely felt by many Wolves fans, myself included. Although, as the night (and more specifically the top 15 picks) played out, it became evident that all of the smoke about possible blockbuster-type deals was just that — smoke. Minnesota didn’t swap picks with Charlotte, Golden State didn’t swap picks with Chicago, and no team (prior to the Timberwolves at pick #17) ended up moving their pick during draft night (more on that in a minute).
When it was all said and done, the first 16 picks of the draft shook out like this:
- Anthony Edwards (Timberwolves)
- James Wiseman (Warriors)
- LaMelo Ball (Hornets)
- Patrick Williams (Bulls)
- Isaac Okoro (Cavaliers)
- Onyeka Okongwu (Hawks)
- Killian Hayes (Pistons)
- Deni Avdija (Wizards)
- Obi Toppin (Knicks)
- Jalen Smith (Suns)
- Devin Vassell (Spurs)
- Tyrese Haliburton (Kings)
- Kira Lewis (Pelicans)
- Aaron Nesmith (Celtics)
- Cole Anthony (Magic)
- Isaiah Stewart (Pistons via Rockets)
Pick #17 is when things got real interesting. Originally slotted to draft there after acquiring the Brooklyn Nets’ first round pick back at the trade deadline, news quickly broke during the lottery (from our own Jon Krawczynski) that the pick would be swapped for no other than (...drum roll please...) Ricky Rubio.
The Timberwolves are in talks to trade the 17th pick to OKC for Ricky Rubio and picks 25 and 28, sources tell @TheAthleticMIN— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) November 19, 2020
While not completely surprising (there were slight rumblings that Rubio was super attainable after he was shipped to Oklahoma City as part of the Chris Paul trade), the tweet still sent shockwaves through the Timberwolves fanbase as it signaled the return of one of the franchise’s most beloved players. Jon would go on to report that the excitement about the reunion was not just one-sided, as the 30-year old Spanish Unicorn was also very much interested in playing for the team who drafted him eleven years ago:
Sources @TheAthleticMIN say that Rubio quickly warmed to the idea of a return to Minnesota when the subject was raised to him. He wants to be a part of making the Wolves a playoff team.— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) November 19, 2020
Minnesota would go on to select intriguing European prospect Aleksej Pokusevski at #17 on behalf of the Thunder, and in return received two of the approximately 1,200 first round picks that OKC has in their treasure chest (#25 and #28 in this draft).
The chaos didn’t stop there, as Gersson Rosas continued his wheeling and dealing ways, shipping the 25th pick (via OKC) and the Wolves second-round pick (#33) to the Knicks for pick #23, which quickly became the intriguing foreign prospect Leandro Bolmaro. The crew at Posting & Toasting did a really extensive breakdown of the young 20-year old Argentinian, and we’ll have our own thoughts and opinions on him in the near future.
With their second-rounder no longer available, the Timberwolves wrapped up their 2020 NBA Draft by targeting one of the most intriguing prospects in the entire draft:
The Timberwolves are targeting Jaden McDaniels at No. 28, source tells ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 19, 2020
Our own Jake Paynting wrapped up his 2020 Draft Radar series by pumping out 4,000 fantastic words on Jaden McDaniels, and included this really intriguing yet spot on analysis of McDaniels’ potential fit in Minnesota:
With McDaniels, it’s all about trust. You must have trust in your coaching staff and your locker room leaders to show him how to mature and grow as a person and a player. And you must have trust in your development staff to show him how to harness the insane gifts he has and unleash them in the most productive way possible, while still understanding that he has a lot more he can learn along the way.
We’ll have plenty more analysis and coverage of tonight’s three new draft picks throughout the next couple of weeks here at Canis, but for those of you curious about my specific thoughts (all 6 or 7 of you) as it pertains to the #RubioReunion, well here you go:
I absolutely love it.
Listen, Ricky Rubio is 30-years old. His best days are likely behind him. There’s plenty to debate here on the value of (allegedly) shipping out James Johnson’s expiring contract for Ricky’s deal which has an extra year on it, and you can also make a strong argument that the team would have been better off simply staying at #17 and selecting Tyrese Maxey, Saddiq Bey, or even Precious Achiuwa (fantastic basketball name by the way).
But for me and me alone — this one just hits differently. Ricky Rubio was drafted by my favorite team during my second year of college. Despite all the noise about him never playing in Minnesota, he finally came over from Europe the year before I started interning for the Wolves and Lynx. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him multiple times, interviewing him, and even got a signed picture from him. Say what you want, but at the beginning of the day and the end of the day, I’m a Timberwolves fan. I’m a Ricky Rubio fan. That’s why I’m still here at Canis.
Was this simply a PR move by Gersson Rosas to win over more of the (already depleted) fanbase? I truly doubt that. I’m probably one of the least knowledgeable “X’s & O’s” guy in this entire community, so I’ll let everyone else explain the possible fit (or lack thereof) of adding the veteran PG to what is quickly becoming a clogged backcourt (D’Angelo Russell, Edwards, Malik Beasley (?), Josh Okogie, and Jarrett Culver).
But here’s what I am good at — people, relationships, and emotions (real big analytics guy, I know). Ricky Rubio lost his mother to cancer. Ryan Saunders lost his father to cancer. Anthony Edwards lost both his mother and grandmother to cancer. Karl-Anthony Towns lost his mother to COVID-19.
That shit matters.
I’ve heard for weeks now that the team who selected Anthony Edwards would need the right system, structure, and leadership in place to help the young Georgia Bulldog mature, grow, and become an adult. We know Rosas believes in those core competencies as well, but guys like him and Ryan Saunders can only do so much with their system and structure. When the game(s) are done and everyone goes back to the locker room, the bus/plane, their apartment/house, who do these young guys rely on for leadership? For guidance? To simply say “I’ve been a highly touted pick in this market before, I’ve felt the loss of a family member, I’m here for you.”
Who the hell is better at checking all of those boxes than Ricky (bleeping) Rubio?
Again, this is a small emotional rant, and I promise to quickly pivot back to basketball here in the coming days. But when my own mom was diagnosed with cancer last summer, it was this article from Ricky Rubio — my favorite Wolves player ever — that truly connected with me, inspired me, and helped me prioritize just how to handle the entire situation for me and my family.
Was acquiring Ricky Rubio via the #17 pick the best possible value for that asset? I don’t know — I’ll let the real experts on our staff and in our community decide that. But here’s what I do know — you can only have so many “kids” on the roster. At some point, for a real NBA franchise to grow and take the next step into possible contention, they need good players, young players, AND veterans — not just two of the three. The Wolves have good players (Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell). The Wolves have young players (Anthony Edwards, Josh Okogie, Jarrett Culver). And after tonight’s trade with OKC, the Wolves may at long last have a real veteran presence that can finally achieve what he came here to do back in 2011 — take the franchise to the next level.